My name is Tatz, I was born in Durban, South Africa the night before a full moon moving from Scorpio into Sagittarius, in 1978. My parents, both married, but not to each other, a circumstance that created a rather challenging time for all involved, me born into the sacred woundedness of entrapment. My Mom’s marriage came to an end and she then remarried, to him who I would call Dad. I remember being happy as a young child, what I can actually remember of those times, I did well at school, I had friends, although the bullying would begin in my early years, outcast from playing games with some of the kids, a girl called Catherine would not allow me to play with the rest of them.
We lived in a big house next door to my Grandparents and my Aunt Iris who had a mental disability. She shared an outside bedroom with us that was both a toy-room and a TV room. One day Iris and I were in the toy-room, I had done something to boil her blood and bring her into an absolute rage, knowing better than to stay, I ran outside into the kitchen, closed and locked the door before she could get to me. She banged on the door, yelling for me to open it which, of course, I was most definitely not going to do, and then came the words that were to change the course of my life “Well your father is NOT your father!” I was nine years old. With Iris locked out of the main house and nobody else at home, I walked down the long passageway, to my parent’s bedroom right down at the end. I went to my dad’s side of the bed and opened first his top drawer, then the second drawer, there it was … the truth. A little grey identity book, I opened it up and written glaringly on the first page was my name and it was not the name that I knew myself as. This man was not my real father. I closed that little book, placed it back exactly where I found it, closed the drawer and walked out of my parent’s room. I cannot tell you what I did after that moment, because it is no longer in my memory, but I can tell you that it was a secret I held for years to come.
My mom opened a business doing massage and she began to work longer and longer hours, until eventually she rented a flat in the city so she could work late and get up early to go to gym and to work. My dad came home at night and looked after my little sister and me. This is when it began, when he would come into my bedroom at night and slowly but surely begin touching me. This would continue for years to come and my young body and mind confused, shamed, angry and guilt ridden. It was all my fault I thought, I was bad and shameful. My school work began to deteriorate and I went from being in the “A” class dropping down each year until I was eventually in the “D” class with all the naughty kids in the school who did not get good grades. My behaviours would also start becoming more sexualised as my young mind associated this with love and over the years I gave away my body in exchange for love.
School bullying would also begin to worsen, and I was incredibly sensitive, I would cry easily. The kids at school would start calling me “Flood the nation” from a line in a song that we sang in assembly. I hung out with the “cool kids” but when they didn’t want you around anymore, they would run away from you at break times. At first, I would run after them, until I stopped. I would go and sit on the bank overlooking the beach and be by myself instead. This is when I made friends with more boys than girls. Girls were bitches and I couldn’t trust them.
When I was still in the fold, I was writing letters to one of the girls, I had told her about what was happening at home. One day, I came home, and my mom called me outside to the pool, she wanted to talk to me. She pulled out a piece of paper, it was one of these letters, in this moment I knew that she knew the truth. I remember my dad coming out to the pool area to ask what we wanted for dinner and my mother screamed at him. I was crying, she was screaming and the next memory I have we were inside in their bedroom, my father was taking out his gun and said he was going to go and shoot himself. My little sister came into the room and asked what was going on, to this day I will never forget his words “Nothing, I just put my fingers inside Taryn’s fanny.”
The days following this are a blur. I remember my mom taking me to the beach and asking me what happened, but I couldn’t talk to her, I couldn’t tell her. I felt ashamed, I felt guilty, I felt as if it were all my fault and I was to blame and somehow, it all seemed to simply disappear. As if nothing had ever happened, life for everyone in my family, went on as usual. The downward spiral for me continued. I began to rebel, everything that my mom told me not to do I did, and I did it properly. I began to fester in a deep-seated anger that was rooted in emotions and feelings that I had no way of understanding how to deal with and there was nobody helping me, nobody supporting me, I felt as if I had disappeared and was no longer seen by those that were supposed to love me.
My schoolwork deteriorated even more, and the principal was going to keep me back the year, but I was pushed through on condition that I get sent to boarding school. I spent about a term and a half at boarding school before begging my mom to bring me home again, as I hated hostel life. This was an interesting time for me though, I made an amazing friend, I was accepted and well-liked and was no longer bullied. My confidence grew and I began to feel “strong” in some way. I left boarding school and entered Amanzimtoti High School. There were a whole lot of new kids from other schools, I was a different person now too, no longer so weak and sensitive. I had found a confidence born out of anger and I would no longer stand for being bullied. In high school I found my fists and I was not afraid to use them; I would rather have people be scared of me and leave me alone than be seen as the weak girl who they could bully.
I remember standing on the other side of the kitchen door and hearing my father in the kitchen with my brother and his friend, talking about me, putting me down. This happened so often, I would stand there listening on the other side of a door and hear my name spoken of with so much disdain, from my very own family. I would lock myself in my room and cry myself to sleep so many nights, then get up the next day and put on my brave strong face, and all the while the anger inside of me taking root in my soul. I remember studying one night and my father walked into my room, “What are you doing?” he asked, “Studying.” “Why bother you’re going to fail anyway,” he said. On and on, spiralling further and further down. Smoking, drinking, numb the pain.
Somewhere along this journey, I disappeared from home one Friday afternoon. No word to anyone, I had had enough. I was also incredibly sick with tonsillitis, but the boyfriend I was staying at was friends with our local pharmacist who brought me anti-biotics. I stayed away the whole weekend and waited on Monday morning till a time that I knew my parents would leave for work before going back home to get my school stuff and go to school. I arrived back home, but my parents were there, they had contacted the school to say that I had been missing. Who knows what was said, I certainly didn’t care and don’t remember? I got dressed, got my school things and was taken to school. That day I was called down to the office, a counsellor had been brought in to speak to me. I told her everything, about the sexual abuse, everything. The school contacted my parents to tell them about the accusations, and that night at home I was told to go back and tell them that I was lying. So, I did exactly that. The next day I was once again called out of class and to the office to see the counsellor. “My parents told me to tell you that I am lying.” And somehow, that was the end of that. Nothing came of it and I was once again left to my own devices.
Fourteen years old, my father and I were fighting, and it was in this moment that I screamed at him “You cannot tell me what to do, you’re not my father!” It was out. I had carried this knowledge from 9 years old, through all of what went on and not until this moment did anyone know that I knew this truth. From here I would exclude myself from family holidays and outings. I had long been wondering about my real father, my mom had shown me the only picture that she had of him. I was a baby and he held me in his arms. I wondered about him, wrote poetry about him and everything else in my life, (which I still have to this day). I dreamed of a different life, one where I was loved, where my real father was there and how things would be so much better. I had spoken to my mom and told her that I wanted to find him. She reminded me of a place I had gone to a few years back with my Aunt, this was where I needed to go, those people that I met were my dad’s wife’s parents. Strangely, I actually remembered where they lived, I remembered a visit that happened when I was about 11 years old and I was now fifteen, almost sixteen years old. I went to see them. I told them that I wanted to meet my dad. They told me that he had gone back to Australia. My heart sank. I stayed with them for two or three hours talking and looking at pictures of this man that I longed for in my life. I saw pictures of his son, my brother, and a whole other side of myself opened up into reality. By the end of my visit, they told me that he was still in South Africa, that they lied only to protect their family. You see, my dad was, and still is, married to his first wife. I went home that day with something new inside of my heart, hope.
I wrote a letter after that visit, to these lovely people that had shared stories with me about a whole other family that I had, and with this letter I wrote a letter to my father and sent it to them. As I have been told, they were having a family get together and my dad was called aside, told of my visit and given my letter. It was a Friday afternoon; I was home from school and excited for the weekend. The phone rang and I ran down the passage to answer it in expectation of a call from a friend to make plans for the weekend.
“Hello, can I speak to Taryn please?”
“This is Taryn,” I said feeling confused.
“Hi Taryn, this is your father.”
“Oh! Um, oh, I don’t know what to say.”
I don’t recall the rest of the conversation, but I will never forget the first words we ever spoke to each other. We arranged for him to pick me up the following week after school, he would be driving a white bakkie, (South African term for a ute). The day came that I was going to meet my father for the very first time, I was almost sixteen years old. That day I waited after school, nervous and excited, for my dad to arrive. Time went on and slowly all the other kids disappeared as they were collected, got on the bus or walked home and eventually I sat ther